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    Doing things differently to attract international students

    The University of Manchester

    Do things differently

    Manchester is famous for doing things differently. So, when The University of Manchester asked us to help them recruit students from across North America and Canada – that’s exactly what we did!


    We were asked to create a campaign that was very different from traditional university campaigns. One that captured the non-conforming spirit of Manchester, the University and its students.

    We wanted to inspire bold, non-conforming students to choose a different path from their classmates. To not just study in a different country, but to start a new adventure at one of the world’s top universities and gain the skills and experience global employers look for.


    As this three-year campaign needed to launch at SXSW in Texas, we only had a few weeks to create a concept from scratch and get the first phase ready. Working collaboratively with the University’s marketing team and their media agency, we developed the campaign rallying cry – Do Things Differently.

    There simply wasn’t time for a film-shoot. But we wanted the University’s real US students to be the stars of the campaign and to feature in the hero film. So, we quickly arranged a stylish photoshoot in different locations across Manchester. And we re-mixed video clips from the University’s asset bank and Marketing Manchester with the student photos to create a fast-paced film that captured the spirit of Manchester.

    As well as the film, we produced event invitations, pull up banner stands, giveaways, web banners, email headers, web content and a giant selfie spot so students could take a picture of themselves in Texas, but looking as if they were stood in Manchester.

    We then created a toolkit and messaging matrix featuring a variety of real student quotes for the media agency and University team to use. This contains everything needed to create further assets and grow the momentum of the campaign.



    The stand and events at SXSW created a real buzz and proved a big success. But as the campaign only launched in early-March, it’s too early to say what impact this will have on student numbers in September.


    “For this campaign we spent a lot of time in the strategy phase, working closely with our US based partner agency, Prophet, to identify not only our target audiences but what would resonate with them and raise the Manchester brand within a hard-to- reach demographic. When it then came to the creative and how to turn this into campaign assets, we considered a range of agencies, but it was a no-brainer to work with Waterfall on this aspect of the campaign. We were really looking for authenticity and it was quickly apparent that Waterfall knew exactly what we were looking for from the brief; a great understanding of the sector and the proposition here in the UK, but also they would bring stand out dynamism and creativity to the project. The pace of the project was intense, but Waterfall delivered exactly what we wanted bringing the best out of our US students who feature so heavily in the campaign. They also worked so well with our US agency partner and media buyers that they have made many fans across the Atlantic! We are only a month or so into the campaign, but it is evident already that the creative is getting really noticed and we’re exceeding expectations with our CTR and excellent engagement on our campaign landing page. This is a three-year campaign, so some way to go yet, but the data is very positive to date. It has been excellent working with Waterfall to date and I look forward to many future collaborations.”

    Paul Govey, Head of Student Communications and Marketing, The University of Manchester.